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We have a large doctoral programme at Imagination with over fifty PhD students, we offer a very broad context in which to study Design.

Imagination research works across Special Interest Groups (SIGs) with cross cutting themes such as Health, Sustainability and International perspectives.


We have expertise in many areas including:

  • Architectural Design
  • Democratising Innovation
  • Design Fiction
  • Design for Sustainability
  • Design Futures
  • Games Cultures
  • Interaction Design
  • Design Management
  • Design for Policy
  • Digital Futures
  • Digital Interactions
  • Ethics Through Design
  • Evaluation
  • Design for Health
  • Healthy Buildings
  • Post-human Design
  • Public Sector Transformation
  • Socially Responsible Design

The Intersection of Design Research and Education

Our programs incorporate design skills and professional practice to inform future thinking and experimentation so our students will be thought and practice leaders in the application of design to global challenges.

PhD Programs

While we concentrate on design research, ImaginationLancaster is by nature interdisciplinary and include students and researchers from a wide range of backgrounds.

We are eager to accept students covering any of the domian and expertise topics, and are also interested in talking to propsective students about other ideas they may have.

Our PhD students are matched with supervisors whose skills and knowledge will support the completion of their research program.

For further information about undertaking a PhD in Design Research with ImaginationLancaster, and other possibilities within Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts (LICA), such as Masters and undergraduate programmes delivered by the School of Design and School of Architecture, please check out the LICA website here.

Meet some of our PhD students …

photograph of lee brewster looking over a staircase

Lee Brewster

How I got here

I have been a practicing designer since 1991, working with communities to help them address social issues by design www.leeandjillbrewster.co.uk  I am making sense of this experience through the research I am doing for my PhD, bringing theory and practice closer together. ImaginationLancaster has a playful, non-hierarchical culture that I thrive in, the people around me in the research lab are inspiring and the knowledge exchange is free flowing.

My research

I want to make design more accessible, I am investigating the tacit nature of designers, the role of the designer and the effects of doing co-design on participants in community contexts.

I am involved in a number of projects with partners outside the University, including FUSE and Project in a Box

violet owen

Violet Owen

My PhD looks at how Creative Evaluation can be used to help social innovations establish their impact. Social innovations produce social impact and social value, which are often less easy to measure and more challenging to show on paper. Through my research I hope to help social innovations better highlight the value they create.

As a part of my research I am working with St Giles Trust, a charitable organisation who use people’s expertise and real-life past experiences to empower them to get the help they need. I am working with the charity to evaluate their peer advisory network.

When looking for a place to undertake my PhD I had a couple of criteria – a north-west location, a design research dedicated space, and a collaborative and collegiate atmosphere. I found all this within ImaginationLancaster.

You do not necessarily have to have a design research related background to study here. Before my PhD I worked as a secondary school teacher and did an MA in Education. The interdisciplinary nature of ImaginationLancaster means there are researchers here from diverse disciplines. Look to your transferable skills rather than design background.

Kim Snooks

Kim Snooks

I applied to study with ImaginationLancaster through the Beyond Imagination project as it seemed a different way to study, I liked the idea of being part of a cohort, all of us having similar experiences, being able to talk with each other, support each other.

I was rather a late applicant as I didn’t intend to continue studying beyond the Masters that I was on the verge of completing. In fact, it was my Masters tutor who suggested I apply.

Coming from a CompSci background I had very little understanding of what design and design research actually was. Studying here at ImaginationLancaster has changed my understanding, which I confess was mainly taken from the one ‘design’ module I took during my Masters. Other faculties’ understanding of design research is often far from what it is. It’s not just prototyping, although that can pe a part of it. There’s a lot more to know and learn – and defining ‘design research’ can be quite personal, there is no ‘wrong’ answer.

I now get to do cool stuff, sometimes with cats, to critically examine future health-tracking technology design. I am exploring how different considerations of context can add meaning to data insights from tracking devices. Also how we can use speculative methods to intervene earlier in the design process  and discover potential challenges before we create a ‘thing’.

Undergraduate and Masters Programmes

Our Undergraduate and Masters programmes are not only about learning theories and concepts, we encourage creative practice, sharing and showing our student’s work, and being part of a dynamic cohort not only within design but also LICA and the wider university.

Each year our students are invited to take part in the LICA Degree Show, in 2023 this was titled “Disruption” and you can see some images from the exhibition below – more images from the design section of the show are here.

“On behalf of the 2023 design cohort I can confidently say that the tutors from imagination have been so supportive and helpful over the three years at Lancaster. Their passion for design and their research is very well reflected in the modules we have done and the success of all of our design outcomes. I have loved studying here and that’s why I am continuing to do a masters next year in design management! Where is a better place to do a design masters than at Lancaster with Imagination?!

In terms of the design degree show, it has been so much fun! I have loved curating the design space, working alongside Adrian Gradinar and some of my friends from the course. We also had the opportunity to use our branding and graphic design skills to create printing material for the LICA Festival as a whole. Overall, it was great experience to work with others to create a successful exhibition!” – Niamh Cartwright, Design student